Why the US is disabling iMessages on these employees’ Apple iPhones

In a bid to avoid a repeat of the January 6 controversy, the US Secret Service is considering turning off employees’ ability to send iMessages on their work-issued iPhones.

According to Politico, the Secret Service is hoping to head off repeats of the current controversy embroiling the agency over deleted text messages related to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

“This is actually something we are looking at very closely,” Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi was quoted as saying.

“Director James Murray has ordered a bench-marking study to further examine the feasibility of disabling iMessage and whether it could have any operational impacts,” Guglielmi added.

Guglielmi said Murray ordered the review “earlier this week”.

Missing text messages have become a recent flashpoint in investigations into the January 6, 2021, riot, the report said.

On July 13, the DHS inspector general informed Congress that the Secret Service lost texts related to the attack while erasing its employees’ phones as part of a change to how it manages those devices.

That revelation prompted the House committee investigating the attack to subpoena the agency for its records. The panel’s leaders suggested that the agency may have violated federal records laws by failing to preserve the messages.

The phone resets occurred as the Secret Service was implementing a new mobile device management platform, a technology that employers use to centrally manage and preserve emails, photos and other data stored on employees’ phones.

Apple’s iMessage cannot be backed up by this system, because they are encrypted and stored on users’ devices, unlike regular text messages, as per the report.

Because of this issue, the Secret Service could not store iMessages in a central location the way it managed its email system and other technologies.

Thus, when individual agents failed to manually back up their data before their phones were erased and reconfigured for the new management system, the only copies of those iMessages were lost.

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